Restaurants that sell fast foods and some industries that manufacture food items use styrofoam containers to package their products.
However, nowadays, styrofoam coffee cups and food jars aren’t that common in use mainly because styrofoam is not environmentally friendly and it might be a potential fire hazard, who knows?
So, in this article, we will walk you through everything you need to know about styrofoam as well as come up with an ideal answer to the intriguing question, “is styrofoam flammable?”
What Is Styrofoam?
Styrofoam is a lightweight plastic made of blue board or extruded polystyrene (XPS). Plus, styrofoam™ is a brand name for all plastics manufactured by the DuPont company.
And aside from fast-food containers and packaging materials, this plastic material can also manufacture insulating materials and other storage products. Since plastic is naturally a good insulator, styrofoam insulating materials is not an awful choice.
The primary constituent of styrofoam, which is “polystyrene” is not expensive to produce. Owing to this, there are many styrofoam products and they are undoubtedly one of the most widely used plastics in the world.
Moreso, styrofoam plastics possess some characteristics which depict them as materials that are harmful to the environment. And because of this, styrofoam poses some threats to human lives.
Let’s find out if one of these “so-called threats” is a fire outbreak.
Thus, Is Styrofoam Flammable?
Yes, styrofoam is a highly flammable material. And if exposed to any flame source or naked inferno, styrofoam will catch flames instantly.
Styrofoam is made from expanded or extruded polystyrene (XPS) with a high density. The high density of polystyrene makes it easier for burning styrofoam to spread a fire. Hence, styrofoam not only catches fire but also spreads fire faster.
At What Temperature Does Styrofoam Burn?
In the presence of sparks or open flames, styrofoam will burn readily. Styrofoam has a high ignition point of about 680°F, however, it will auto-ignite at any temperature around 800°F.
Also, note that styrofoam deforms at a temperature of around 212°F before they burn. This is the typical nature of all plastics.
Does Styrofoam Burn Or Melt?
Styrofoam plastics undergo both burning and melting when you expose them to high heat. However, styrofoam will always pass through an alteration in shape (deformation) before it burns. Styrofoam melts before it burns.
Styrofoam softens at any temperature within the range of 212°F to 238°F. And by the time styrofoam reaches 464°F, it melts.
Is Styrofoam Resistant To Heat?
Yes, styrofoam is a heat-resistant plastic material. Being an insulator, styrofoam keeps cold food cold and hot foods hot for a long time.
Owing to this feature, styrofoam containers are used to serve hot foods and hot coffees in eateries. Although styrofoam can melt at a high temperature, it won’t possibly melt a coffee cup unless the coffee is extremely hot.
What Happens When You Burn Styrofoam?
Unlike polyester, which does not catch flames readily, styrofoam burns hastily (although it is not entirely combustible). The smoke given off by burning styrofoam is evidence of its partially combustible nature.
When styrofoam burns, a sooty, oily fume is evolved. And styrofoam fumes are toxic and hazardous to the health of man and animals.
The gas present in styrofoam smoke contains styrene and other toxins which can damage the nervous system and trigger other severe health conditions if inhaled.
Is Styrofoam A Fire Risk?
You can’t be too sure if your styrofoam containers will put you at a fire risk or not. But you can always observe some preventive measures against a potential fire outbreak.
So, before we talk about styrofoam being a fire hazard, make sure all the styrofoam plastics in your home are not exposed to high heat sources such as water heaters, ovens, grills, etc. Moreso, styrofoam plastics are not likely to ignite in a microwave, provided you’re not warming up your food for a long time (for hours).
Now, back to the big deal: styrofoam can pose a fire danger just like flammable air fresheners because of the ingredients they contain. At a relatively high temperature, styrofoam catches blaze easily and being an extruded plastic, it spreads fire even faster.
Burning styrofoam also gives off sparks, and if care is not taken, a massive fire explosion might surface.
How To Extinguish Styrofoam Fire
There are general ways for putting out fires, although some fires are extinguished based on their intensity. With low-key styrofoam fire, water can work wonders.
If a styrofoam fire has spread little, adding a sufficient amount of water can easily quench the fire. However, if the fire is huge and already spreading violently, using a fire extinguisher or seeking the service of firefighters will make more sense.
Ensure you switch off all electrical connection outlets at the fire scene while attempting to put out the fire.
Is It Safe To Heat Food In Styrofoam?
While you can use styrofoam containers to preserve foods in a refrigerator, it is not advisable to cook in it, especially in an oven. This is because if you subject styrofoam to high heat, it will melt.
And when styrofoam melts, the toxic chemicals it produces (dioxin, benzene, styrene) will penetrate the food you are cooking/attempting to cook. These toxins are not in any way beneficial to your health.
Is Styrofoam Biodegradable?
No, styrofoam is not biodegradable. Styrofoam is a popular polystyrene foam in North America and other countries. But in some countries today, styrofoam products have been prohibited mainly because they are not biodegradable (do not break down in time).
Non-biodegradable products like styrofoam can cause a lot of dangers to the ecosystem. Research reveals that most animals cannot differentiate between styrofoam and foods in landfills.
Because of this ignorance, animals consume styrofoam, get sick, and might eventually die. Thus, styrofoam materials can be an enormous threat to animals and even human lives.
Styrofoam is a flammable plastic material. Hence, you need to handle it with extra care and observe some appropriate precautions to prevent a fire hazard.
Meanwhile, this guide spotlights all the facts you need to know about styrofoam and its flammability nature. Visit here to check out the safety data sheet for styrofoam.
We wish you a fire-free encounter!